Friday, 9 January 2015

Red vs Blue Wargaming

Time, or more specifically lack of, is always my enemy when it comes to painting new armies etc. Then of course there is always the issue of shiny new toys or rules coming along to distract the weak willed and feeble minded gamer like myself. Over the years I've tried to come up with ways to overcome this problem, but to no avail. I tried 2mm armies that gave the feel of large battles but they just didn't grab me, plus there was the issue of yet another set of terrain and scenery to try and store.

Whilst at work one day I remembered a picture in a wargames magazine of a game at a show/convention, where the game was played on a normal table with standard scenery etc, but instead if figures, the units were represented by painted blocks of red and blue for each side. The game had a nice visual appeal but looked like something you might encounter at a staff college. The more I thought about it the more the idea appealed to me.

The blocks could be easily made at work and painted there and could represent any units from any time period. One minute they could be Greeks vs Romans or Prussians vs Austrians in 1866, the next Parliamentarians vs Royalists at Naseby. Just change the flags/standards and unit names etc to suite the relevant battle.

So in some spare moments at work I quickly knocked up a few sample blocks to see how they looked. As I mainly game in 10mm, I decided to use my standard base sizes of 40mm x 20mm. Add in base thickness and figure height and I decided upon a unit height of 1/2" or 12.70mm and for pike blocks I increased this to 1"/25.40mm. The main reason was that these are readily available thicknesses for mdf or acrylic, making my job that much easier. The results can be seen below.

A block of pike with two wings of shotte, supported by commaned shotte on the left and an artillery battery to the right, command the ford of a local river.
Another view that gives a better idea of the size of the blocks.
The field boundaries make the table 3'x3'.
The same blocks but now arranged as a unit of infantry with a unit of cavalry on the left wing.

I'm happy with the way they've come out so far. To be honest I'm not sure about the flags. I'm going to increase the size of them to give them more visual impact, but these were ones that I happened to have at hand. Unit commanders are most likely to be round in shape to make them stand out on the wargames table, but I've yet to actually make any samples. Another thought is to add in some more colours for units, to make allied units etc stand out from the main protaganists. For the present I will be sticking with blue and red. So all that remains is for me to work out a cutting list to give me enough basic units for a variety of games. Once this is done, with a bit of luck I might be able to have everything finished by the end of the month.So far I've made about sixty 40mm x 20mm blocks, so am well on the way...


  1. I'm all for this. I like the blocks. Before I finish painting my armies for a battle, I have been printing out the bases on card and moving the card around for home playtesting. Also, it helps to decide on a ruleset before buying the necessary figures.

    1. Glad you liked them Eric. I tried the card route, but the lack of height somehow put me off the idea. This route will allow me much more playtesting for potential new periods and armies, or just for quick games in a period I wouldn't normally game.